Thursday, 30 May 2019

Its still got knobs on it (the trip)

22 - 29th May, 2019

under construction

Trip Stats:

 6 nights under canvas + one in a mine site donga

  2615km travelled

  303L fuel used

trip average of  11.6L/100
(worst 13.3, best 10.3)

cost of fuel $478

camp fees total $0 👍

With 6 nights under canvas on this trip, the yearly tally stands at 27. Does not include the donga on the 27th.

trip vids:

It's still got knobs on it (the little walk)

24 - 25th May, 2019

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I must be barking mad. For you see, 12 months after the accomplishment of getting out to Nichol's Knob on foot, I am doing it again. Yep, that's batshit crazy alright.

Nichols Knob, named by explorer Frank Hann in 1908, after one of his camels that died at the spot, lies some 130Km's North East of Laverton as the crow flies, in the Great Victoria Desert. Just a small lump of rock in an otherwise large plain of spinifex. If you blink you would miss it.....That said, I wouldn't mind betting the number of white men that have been here could be counted on less than two hands. No roads or tracks lead to this place and a vehicle entry (if you are brave enough) will have you bashing through virgin desert, mulga and spinifex for a minimum of 15Km's one way. The closest habitation is 60Km to the South at an indigenous community (Cosmo Newbery) or (if occupied at the time), Lake wells Station some 30Km's to the North. Such is the remoteness of the place.

Having been one of only 3 people that have found the geocache at that location, I feel a custodianship towards the cache. When there last year, I noted that the logbook has been water damaged and the 3 finders all had to fill out a scrap of paper to prove they had physically got to ground zero. I had been looking for another adventure, so I conjured up the idea of going back. The plan would be to take a new log book out with me for future finders. The problem was my feet were telling me ...nooooo! They remembered the pain they were put through last time.

So a few months beforehand, I purchased an ex army ammo can and a dry box. The plan was to carry the ammo can out to site, with the drybox inside that with a fresh logbook. This should future proof the cache. Unless caught out by fire, an ammo can will survive for an extremely long period, especially in such an arid landscape.

This blog entry will describe my overnight walk. The road trip, I will write up separately.

Two days after leaving home, I arrived at base camp, early afternoon. I therefore proceeded to set up camp. I was planning on being here 3 days. So along with all my usual clobber, I had to set solar going too.

It was an easy afternoon really, however, the flies were terrible. It was so different to last year. Also different was taking on-board the lessons learnt from the last expedition. Where as I did it very rough, last year - no tent, no sleeping gear, minimal water, and even an evening meal, this year I geared up accordingly. A new pack, a bivvy for protection, a sleep mat, a sleeping bag, more water and a dehydrated meal. Something I struggled with last year big time was having no chair. I cant believe how hard this was without one. So seating in the form of a little stool came along too. All this comes with an additional weight penalty though. I was a spent force when I returned last year and now with more weight to carry, I reckoned I would fare worse. I did a 20Km overnight hike the weekend prior to both break in my new hike boots and my legs/back with the additional weight. I did no training whatsoever last year.

 Prior to sunset, I pre packed all my gear ready for an early morning departure. A few bevvies after dinner by the fire and it was time to retire for the night. The pain was no doubt coming in the morning.

I had set my alarm for an 0530 wakeup. The sky presented an amazing but alarming sight - you know, red sky in the morning, sailors warning:

A quick bite to eat, now dressed to kill and I was ready to depart at 0630 with a +15Kg pack on my back and I was carrying a 3L water bladder and an ammo can in an additional bag. Not for the feint hearted hey!

The plan at this stage was just to get to the mid point: Approximately 8Km as the crow flies. Once there, I would drop the waterbag as a reserve supply for the trip home. I had run out at this point last year and had to do the last 8Km without water. Not a good option. I had also broken the journey into 8 waypoints to help minimise the cross track error and reduce the kilometres under foot.

The first couple of kilometres were pretty easy. I was fresh and the ground was open. Good walking country and I was averaging 4Km/h speed over ground. The weather was a bit on the overcast side and this made for nice cool walking conditions. But I had an issue: It hadn't rained out here for ages and today it looks threatening. I have not packed any wet weather gear.....

I knew from last year though, the ground would change and soon after waypoint 2, the open ground finished and the mulga and spinifex started with a vengance:

This spinifex and mulga country is a lot harder to walk and presents some dangers. The last thing I needed was to be greeted by a mulga snake, or worse, having a spinifex adder strike me from behind as I put my foot over a clump of spinny. Fate was in the hands of god now.

A couple of kilometres of spinny and I was greeted with some more open country to the midpoint. Another difference from last year was the amount of animal tracks in the sand. camel, roo, dingo and emu prints were everywhere. last year there was only a couple of isolated patches of camel print. I really wasn't keen on meeting any angry bull camel, so if I never saw one, I would be happy.

It had taken me about 2 hours to get to the midpoint, so I was keeping my 4km/h speed over ground average. Here I had a break for 1/2 an hour or so. I still had a long way to go, so looking after ones feet was a must. Carrying that extra bag was a bit of a pain too, but now I could drop the 3 litres of water and just contend with the ammo can. The feet and back were faring up pretty well at this stage - which was just as well with another 24 odd Km's to go.

A feed, a rest and a drink and I had to push on. I took a different route from last year at this point. A more direct one, but google earth imagery showed it may be a bit rougher due to mulga. Only one way to find out I guess.

I crossed the creek bed I discovered last year. I still marvel at such a wonder in an extremely arid environment.

As google earth had shown, pretty soon I was into thick mulga/spinifex. That stretch was the hardest slog of the trip. And the one place I saw more wildlife than the rest combined. A few roo's were spotted and again I was wary, a lesson learnt from last year when one of the buggers charged me. this time however, we were both happy in the fact that if we left each other alone, we could both go on happy. I do wonder how many people these roo's may have seen in the past, not many, if any at all I reckon.

And then it happened. Deep in thick mulga and spinifex, now miles from the car, I spot camel. A mob of 4 grazing about 150 meters away. So I stopped and observed. They carried on grazing, I suspect they never even saw me. So onto waypoint 5 I go. The spinifex cleared into isolated lumps with sandy patches in between so that I could navigate around the insidious stuff. The mulga cleared too. The going got a bit easier, which was a good thing because pushing your way through thick, waist high spinifex isn't exactly confidence inspiring. This new route I plotted also avoided the large breakaway I had to ascend/descend last year. Whilst I never got to admire the beauty of such a structure, I also didn't have to contend with trying to make my way down it.

I came across some old camel bones nearing waypoint 6. For a good 500 meters, I would see isolated bones that I reckon was from the same animal, spread no doubt by something having a feed. Dingo no doubt. Then a skull and finally the bulk of the animal. The dingo's had had a field day. Being a carnivore in this environment, you have to admire their tenacity to survive in this country.

After a good couple of k's of easier going and nearing waypoint 6, I knew I was up for a final challenge. The last couple of K's was just a plain of spinifex. barely a place to stick a pin between subsequent plants. That would be tough. Just as I was breaking the last of the mulga belt, I spied another mob of 4 camel about 100m on the plain. God damn it!

So I watched and waited, knowing I at least had a tree or two to run around if need be. This mob of camel spotted me. A short duration ensued which led them to bugger off....into the spinifex plain. I just hoped they didn't head towards the knob.

Breaking out onto the plain, I could see the Red Bluff as described by Carnegie in 1897. I would dearly love to spend a week out here exploring both features, but I cant ever see that happening unfortunately. Maybe one day I might hire a chopper to drop me off with a weeks supplies? I couldn't do it on foot. The knob itself not readily able to be seen, such is its size.

Halfway through the plain with about a kilometre to go, Nichol's Knob becomes apparent. Only to those who know (and very few would) as its not very conspicuous:

I was nearing my target. A bit sore, a bit tired, but elated to be here once again. The sun had come out in the last few kilometres and now the flies were getting a bit up close and personal. I knew on arrival at the knob the fly net had to come out.

And then I saw it.....that bloody tree on the North slope of the knob. That tree is going to haunt me for the rest of my life. I have seen a picture of it when the cache was first placed here 16 years ago, and I crap you not, it hasn't grown an inch since that day:

Actually, that tree is going to haunt me for the rest of my days because I reckon I may not ever see it again. Its a bitter sweet accomplishment having got out here a second time, having to acknowledge it will possibly be my last. But here's the rub: as I write this, I reckon I would be a happy man if my urn were ever placed under that tree, such is the desire of finally achieving something that's been on your bucket list for a decade.

The sun had poked out by now and the temperature was warming. But oh boy - those flies:

I find the cache is in good order, just as I left it 1 year and 4 days prior. I photograph the only 3 logs the cache has had in its 16 year lifespan including my own:

To get here I have had to walk 17 odd kilometres and the journey has taken me about 6 hours. I arrive some 2 hours earlier than last year and have walked about 2km less.

There was also a secondary mission for coming out here. Last year I left a bottle of topaque for the next finder....well that just happens to be me, so I exchange the bottle with a fresh one. I now have a 12 month desert matured bottle to consume, should I make it back. Whilst here, I am amazed as an A380 flies directly overhead, no doubt a Middle Eastern flight bound for either Sydney or Melbourne. To top that off, another one on the exact same route follows behind about 10 minutes later:

I have to admit, sitting here, all alone, miles from anyone, is a surreal experience and I take in as much of the view as I can whilst I am still here:

I place all the old logs in the dry box, then placed that into the ammo can and leave a couple of sets of my pathtags for fellow adventurers to come get them.

The cache now future proofed, my job here is done.

So I have been on site for about an hour now and then I turn West for home. If not for the sight of that bloody 2km long spinifex plain I have to traverse again, I sadly say a few solemn farewells to a place that holds a special place in my memory.

Trudging along on foot again, I am making mental calculations: Can I actually make it back to camp tonight? apart from the fact I am looking at a 35km day, the sun sets at  1700 here and its too dark to travel after 1730. 16 Km's at 4km/h would put me back at camp at 1730...Hmmm maybe.

Yeah, maybe not. Factor into the account I am now tired, sore and slower and need to rest for short periods more often, it was never going to happen. But it was a great plan. I retrace my route and about 4km's from the knob, I find my old foot prints from a few hours ago. Who needs a gps hey!

Back through the semi open ground I go, no sight of camels now. Then onto the hard slog of the heavily vegetated and spinifex field I go. One foot in front of the other. I consider if I can push on further past the mid point making an easier day tomorrow, but that doesn't happen either. I finally break out of the spinifex and spot my water bag in a tree. Visions of Ernest Giles and his waterbag in a tree come flooding back to me.

It is now 1630, I have walked some +26Km's of nasty country and I'm feeling spent. Yep, I'm just going to stick to my original plan and camp here the night. I only have an hour of daylight left anyhow.  I left camp 10 hours ago.

I get the tent set up, gather some wood, and before I know it, the sun has set and darkness is creeping in very fast. I boil some water and enjoy a most magnificent roast lamb freeze dried meal. It sure beats the two apples I had for dinner last year. At 1930 I retire for some rest. not long in bed, trying to no avail to get comfortable, I'm sure I hear a camel snort....great. now I can spend the rest of the night worrying about being run over by a camel.

Way off in the distance I also hear a pack of Dingos howling. This goes on for some time. I did manage to get some sleep that night, but not a lot. The fact I was uncomfortable all night, slightly cold and the unknown of it all, stuck in the middle of nowhere all conspired to make it an unusual night.

Morning comes around and it's a bit cool. I am up before sunrise. The bivvy, full of condensation inside even though I left my door open all night. I long for a coffee, but decide I wont stuff around lighting a fire to boil some water, seeing I left my stove behind as a weight reduction measure. I'll just tough it out:

Before I can get underway, I need to take some remedial steps on my feet. You see, these new boots are giving me blisters, and I'm sporting a beauty on my left big toe from the 20K over nighter I did the weekend before. I need to take care of that or I will be in trouble. last year, the pads on the bottom of my feet suffered badly. From those lessons learnt, I strap my feet accordingly:

I pack my gear, wet bivvy and all, and hit the desert at 0640 for the 8km trip back to base camp. I should be back at camp in around 2 hours. Easy going for the first two K's, I reach waypoint 3 and then I'm back into the thick mulga belt and tall, thick spinifex. This again slows me down. Considering the big day I put in yesterday, I'm pulling up pretty well, but the feet are sore. However, this thick country is devastating to walk:

I soldier on, weaving around that spinifex clump, then the next, hop over some fallen mulga and repeat the process for kilometers. Up until now, my navigation has been pretty bang on course. Another lesson learnt from last year, set multiple waypoints, closer together. I manually created a series 2 km apart from base camp to the knob. last year I only had 2, the mid point and the knob, 8 km apart. I found my cross track error blew out considerably and I walked some extra unnecessary miles on that trip. this time around, the 2km legs were working a treat........until now.

I noticed I was some 750+ meters south of the straight line path to waypoint 2. Partly due to having to avoid vegetation, partly due to poor navigation technique. I always try to sight and go......take a bearing on a landmark in the distance, in this country that usually relates to a tree, and walk towards that. It had worked up till now. I have seen this issue before, so I perform a compass recalibration on the Oregon 700 and try again. I decide its a waste of time heading back to my prior target, waypoint 2, and make a direct course for waypoint 1. More roo's spotted as I punch my way through the heavy ground, but again, they are happy, and so am I, except for punching ones way through this stuff:

My track is back to being straight as a die. Problem solvered. 1500m of slugging it out in the trees and again I make some open ground. Here I come across some small granite outcrops I have to climb up. That tells me my feet and legs are both tired and sore. Its a slow amble in those places, but plug on I must. I note the sun is still hidden in cloud cover and I wonder how my battery is faring back at camp with minimal solar to replenish what the fridge is taking out. I could so go a beer.....

Did I mention the flies......I reckon I must have had 3 Kilograms of flying sultana's on my hat alone:

And soon enough, I make waypoint 1. The compass re-cal worked a treat. With only 2k's back to base camp, I decide to take a 1/2 hour rest, the job is almost done. A good time for some breakfast me thinks:

The sun, now out from behind the clouds, its warming up again. I drink from my bladder in the pack and empty it. Not bad going, I ran out at the midpoint last year but this time I am carrying the bladder I left in the tree, so water is no issue this trip. I eat a fruit press roll and this supplies a sugar hit and some extra energy for the last leg home.

Again, some more small granite outcrops to traverse, then make my way on the home stretch through the breakaway's close to camp, noting all the camel print in the sand that wasn't there last year:

And sure enough, at 0930, I make base camp. Ahhh magoo, you have done it again:

I cant believe I have done it again. Crazy as a coconut indeed I am. But a wonderful feeling all the same. I have arrived in remarkable condition compared to last year where I was locked up like a 90 year old man. This year however, whilst still very happy with my feat of endurance, I don't have that elated feeling I arrived with. Possibly because I know this time I can do it. But it's time to get those bloody boots off:

I took on board lessons learnt from last year and made adjustments accordingly. These adjustments worked well, even though I had extra gear to carry. I have arrived an hour earlier than last year and saved 4km of distance walked. I returned with 2L of water as well.

27 hours, 35 kilometers of virgin Great Victoria Desert and I can continue on with the rest of the trip. No doubt with a whole lot less walking involved. Now, where's that bottle of desert matured topaque again......

I would like to extend my gratitude to a few people that helped me achieve this remarkable task of visiting Nichol's Knob once again. In order of appearance:

  • David Carnegie, who passed the Red Bluff in 1897 on his way to Halls creek
  • Frank Hann, who camped at this spot and Nichol, his dead camel who gave the site its name in 1908.
  • Allan McCall, who back in 2003 somehow drove his landcruiser out here and placed the cache. With his mum as passenger no less 👍
  • And last but not least, the boys and girls at Laverton police station who had my back should it all go tits up 
And a special mention to Ayden89, who last year left me some Cognac, and this year provided me with some overnight accommodation and a slap up feed. More on that in the road trip write up.

Oh and returning back home to Perth, look at all the crap one has to deal with  😎

Love your work fangirl! Cheers for the laugh.

Nichols Knob. Site of arguably Australia's most remote cache, geocache GCG3HJ. With 2 visits now under my belt I can safely assure you "it's still got knobs on it"

The vid:

Cruizin' on 100

19 - 29th March, 2019

(published but under construction. A more pressing article is to be published first)

Trip Stats:

 10 nights under canvas

  3339km travelled

  390L fuel used

trip average of  11.7L/100
(worst 12.7, best 9.7)

cost of fuel $598

camp fees total $31

Wooramel $13
Kennedy Range $8
Mt Augustus $10

With an over nighter to Collie and a 4 night prospecting trip (both not blogged), the yearly tally stands at 21 nights under canvas

trip vids:

It was such an epic trip, there is a lot of video in here.

Tag along cache tour

11-17th January

(published but under construction. a more pressing article needs to be published first)


Trip Stats:

 6 nights under canvas

 1238km travelled

 156L fuel used

trip average of  12.6L/100

cost of fuel $217

camp fees total $103:

alexandra $15
black point $11
lake jasper $11
pemby CVP $35
Windy harbour $20
Snotty Gobble$11
(costs above for one adult, 1 child)

The yearly tally stands at 6 nights under canvas

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Bagging 300

November 23-27

So I had 4 1/2 days off, with nothing planned and great weather forecast....What to do then???

With a 4am start at work completed by 1000, on a last minute spur of the moment decision, I decided to pack the car and head out into the wheatbelt. It had been a while and whilst at it, I could knock off a cache or two. By the time I had done some food shopping and had the car packed, it was 1425 Hrs. That should give me a head start on some wheatbelt stuff in the morning. The rough cut plan in my head was to head to Billiburning Rock, somewhere I had visited but not stayed at previously. Making my way North from the Highway at Kellerberrin, a lowering sun on the horizon meant I wasn't going to make Billiburning before dark. So I put plan B into action....Marshall Rock. This was a lot closer. nearing Marshall, A huge full moon was arising, but with time of the essence, I didn't have time for a picture. As it was, it was dark when I arrived there too.

Having had an early start due to work, the night was a pretty quiet, early affair. But I was in the wheatbelt, just South of Bencubbin, ready for the next 4 days of unknown adventure.

Coffee and breakfast done, I decided to have a bit of a walk around the summit of Marshall Rock. The only other person here, some back packers in their bongo van, whom I never laid sight on by the way.  I was camped around the back, on the Northern side, they were on the South East side, so all in all, I may as well have been there on my own anyway.

With no real plans except maybe pick off a cache or two, it was a late start. I never got underway until midday. It was pretty warm, so I decided to go into Benny for a cool drink and a cache on the way into town. I was having an experimental trip this time around. No fridge. I just packed an icebox. This would be interesting, as I hadn't used an icebox in years. Could I get 5 days usage on ice alone??
Well it was going to be tough. Trying to fit 2 bags of ice into a 50L icebox full of food/drink was tough. In fact, it couldn't be done unless I broke one bag of ice into pieces. Not ideal, cause it melts faster that way, but it had to be done.
I dropped into lake Mcdermott for a look, a large open area is here that one could push into a quick overnighter if needed. I decided Muckinbudin was the plan for today, trying to make Baropin Rocks for the night. A quick stop at Welbungin tennis club was called for....a cache lying in waiting GC5DP35.
From there it was a short hop to Welbungin Hill. A rather unloved cache (GC5DP4H) needed another signature. I dropped a TB that I had picked up in Dongara and also placed my first pathtag into a cache as an incentive for others to visit. Some 4 months later, and no one has been there since. The view from the top over the surrounding agricultural district was pretty special:

Seeing I was passing "dead men tell no tales" - GC5DP42, I had to go pay homage to poor old Richard. A grave site out in the middle of nowhere.

Making Muckinbudin around 1430, I dropped into the café for some lunch, then headed off to the botanical gardens for another find. I had knocked off another hour of sunlight making these detours, so time was now of the essence to get to camp at a reasonable hour, whilst knocking another couple of caches off.

Making De-Eraning Rock at 1600, I knew things would be tight. I had a fair hike to get to GZ from where the car was parked. The Cache here was a pretty special one, some pretty good aboriginal art is to be found nearby (GC57CTN).

Making my way up the large rock face, I had to find a path through scrub and granite to get to ground Zero. Eventually I got there. It was mid afternoon  with temps in the mid 30's when I arrived at GZ. try as I might, I just couldn't find this bloody cache. Approaching from every angle, looking in every crevice and turning over every rock, I must have spent a good 1/2 hour looking for it. Then I read the prior logs. I suspect the co-ords are out a little, and the cache is on top of a large granite sloping rock, some 5M or so above ground. The issue for me being, I reckon I could get up there, but would probably break my neck getting back down. I was solo and a long way from help. It's no place to break a leg, so I had to let it go to the keeper. Next time I might bring some "tools" to help me find it.

The cave at the site was pretty impressive with all it's artwork. So I took some pics and started making my way back to the car.

I had now wasted 1 1/2 hours on this DNF and time was getting on. The original plan was to knock of the sister cache to De-Eranning, but both time and the prior logs told me this wasn't going to happen today. It was time to head for camp. I knocked Baropin on the head and decided to hit Beringbooding rock  instead, arriving at 1800.

I quickly got some gear out and got up top of the rock for both the sunset and moonrise. unfortunately, there was an hour and a half between both events, so I just sat up top and waited. I wish I had my DSLR this trip as I may have got a decent moonrise shot with that.

A short 123Km day was done. Arriving back to camp in the dark at 2000, it was time to get some dinner on the go.

Come the morning, after breakfast, I decided to go around the back of the rock to try to find this aboriginal had print I've looked for a few times prior - without success...

A short stroll and I was in familiar country - balancing boulders:
And making my way through the vegetation, I arrived at the site, ready for another investigation for this hand print:
Looking up, looking down, all around the site, again I just couldn't find it. I walked the periphery and just happen to look into a gap in the rocks at a time when the lighting was right - bloody hell, there it was, on the cave wall - the cave I had been in and out of numerous times without seeing it.
Well I'll be buggered. Inside the cave, if you look hard enough, there she was in all its glory 😏. I cant believe I had never found it prior.

So walking back to the car, I now had a bit of a spring in my step. That made up in some way for the drama at De-Eranning yesterday.

Another late start, I got on the road around 1130. With no idea where I was going, I decided to head down to Westonia and maybe check out South of the Highway.....A place I keep meaning to investigate, but never have.

I picked up a cache at Sandleford Rocks (GC2E48A) where I has some lunch in the shade of a tree. Again, it's another hot one today.

Then onto Westonia. What a magic little town this is.

Explore Westonia

I will have to come back one day and spend some time walking around here, but for now, its just enough time to find a niggly nano.....on mechanical equipment. You always know this will be a challenge.....

But I had it in hand pretty quickly:

Mind you, the guardian of the cache was keeping his eye on me:

Another find at the town entrance and it was time for the highway to continue the journey on the South side:

Making a DNF on a cache at Bodallin, I headed East and turned South at Yellowdine. There are a couple of caches down here and I veered off track for one near a salt lake. You have to cross the lake to get to the hide. Unfortunately, I had a bit of water on this track - obviously a storm had rolled through at some stage - and this had me a bit worried about driving across a wet salt lake, solo and unassisted. When the vegetation closed in, that sealed my fate. I turned around. I will leave that one for another day. No point being a hero.
Soon after, I made Mt Palmer and knocked off the cache here (GC6K8XW) then made my way back to the old Mt palmer Hotel for tonight's camp.
What an amazing place. The ruins of the Old hotel is the most significant feature of the area, but with a beer in hand, I went for a short stroll and found the remnants of a now defunct gold mining township.


 A more respectable 260Km's for the day done.

Morning dawns and the weather is looking a little sus. I suspect it will burn off during the day. With coffee duties done and a nice omelette to boot, it's time to hit the tracks for Marvel loch at 0900. After 3 days of pretty warm temps, I am needing some ice. I am right for the time being, but I reckon tomorrow I will be out, so best to resupply whilst I can, in Marvel Loch.

All these tracks South of the highway from yellowdine are an unknown entity to me. Knowing the region in general, I fully expect to tracks to either be locked up in a mining lease with no entry allowed, or they will close in with vegetation. but I am pleasantly surprised......for a while anyway.

 I turn off a bush track onto a well formed dirt road. It is too well formed for my thinking, I wonder if its a private haul road?

Some 10Km's later, I find the answer....yep, it sure is. No signage whatsoever where I joined this road. It really grates me this mining industry. They can just get access to roads/tracks, put a bit of work in, then claim them as private. Well screw you. Whilst I wont deliberately enter a signed "keep out"place, I have no grudge using a road that I just happen to stumble on in the bush. If the miners take offence to that - well, get over it.

And so I make Marvel Loch. It just appears to be nothing short of a donga village for the local miners. I find the general store - the general store with no ice....Grrrr but the bowser out front is worthy a pic:

Seeing as its only 1000, the pub isn't open either. So on the ice front, I am screwed. At camp last night, I looked at some maps and decided to make my way down to the Holland Track, to exit at Hyden. Always good to have a plan hey! But this means another day without ice. At least the slurry is still ice cold and my food containers aren't leaking.

So Another pesky nano is picked off on the way out of town (GC3HZGH)

From there I had to make my way to Mt Holland. Stopping at cockatoo tanks (GC3HZGN) cause it was on the way and there was a log that had to be signed   :

However, my main aim was to get down to the site of the Vultee Vengeance (a27-295) aircraft crash site. Not just for the cache, but for the history too.


It makes a riveting read:

On Sunday the 27th August 1944 one of the most dramatic events to involve members of
the 15th battalion took place in the far eastern part of the unit’s area.
An RAAF Vultee Vengeance dive bomber went missing on a training flight from Pearce
near Perth. The plane had apparently become lost and run out of fuel. The RAAF
started searching between New Norcia and then Moora without luck. A few days later
a chance conversation between a commercial pilot and Sqd/Ldr Haber, the commanding
officer of No.7 Communications Unit at Pearce, revealed that the former had sighted
what he thought was a tent in the bush east of Narembeen. Next morning a Beaufort bomber
identified a parachute but no sign of life and a large number of soldiers from Northam
were sent for a ground search.

The pilot Warrant Officer J Ingram was located at a remote farmhouse some four days
after the crash and told his story. On realizing that he was nearly out of fuel he had
warned the navigator Flt/Sgt CL King to bale out and went through the necessary roll to
allow him to do so. He then climbed for height and baled out himself. There being no sign
of King he headed west and found the farmhouse after four days during which he had only a
goanna to eat.

A huge effort was now mounted to try and locate King and the aircraft. The wreckage was
finally found by a Tigermoth on the2nd of September in extremely thick and inhospitable
scrub, however this did not deter a search party which included 15th Battalion men,
Cpl M Holtfreter and Pte D Wilkins from setting out to find it. They drove a truck as far
as possible then continued on foot. After they reached a spot five miles beyond the truck
it was arranged that a plane would fly over and drop a smoke bomb on the crash site to mark
it. Holtfreter fired his rifle into a tree well ahead in line with the smoke then went
forward and marked it so that one of the others could take a compass bearing. A further
thirteen miles into the scrub they found the crash site. A large area had been burnt and the
plane’s engine was buried ten feet in the earth and the wreckage strewn over ten acres.

There was no trace of King or his parachute, it was believed that he had been hit by the large
tailplane of the Vengeance as he bailed out. After the war, his father travelled from the
eastern states and enlisted the help of Holtfreter to make another search for his lost son,
but to no avail.

Just getting to the cache 50m in the scrub was bad enough. the site is total devastation. Just small fragments of aircraft alli scattered throughout the bush.

So that was a pretty cool detour.

By 1300, I had made Mt Holland and decided to drive the steep, rocky track to the top for another log signing:

And then I was to make my way down the Holland for Hyden:

The next 2 hours was hell. I only travelled a mere 23km, it was all stop/start/think and pick a route through very deep puddles and ruts without causing vehicle damage. Very early on I copped a bit hit to the front intercooler bashplate (thank goodness for bash plates). Soon afterwards, I reduced the capacity of my auxiliary fuel tank and broke one of its mounting brackets as my arse end slid into a hole. then to top it off, I dented the left side fender on a tree about 1 1/2" in diameter that I misjudged.
All in all, it left a sour taste for me regarding the Holland track, one that means I wont be back. To me it wasn't fun, it was a chore. It wasn't even technically challenging. It was just a pain in the arse. The worst part was that the track wasn't naturally rough - all this has been caused by vehicle erosion from mud warriors, that feel they have to travel these tracks when wet, and then do what they can do to transfer dirt from the track over their panels. I guess rule 5 means nothing.
It's now 1530 and its looking like I may not even make Hyden tonight - if this crap keeps up. However I made a coms tower and a quick find of another cache (GC2E47Y)
From here the track opened up pretty much and I started to make some progress. Apart from a large rut I had to traverse crosswise. I got some pretty big air time from the front left hand wheel, more than I expected and I near crapped myself when it lifted. but all was good, down she came, and onwards I went to cross the barrier fence:

With the last cache on the Holland crossed off (GCVRR1), I finally made Hyden at 1745. Here I managed to grab a bag of ice. Opening the ice box, the carnage was revealed. The rough bouncing along the Holland had tossed my shit everywhere. The slurry now a mix of punctured dip containers, meat juice and all other delightful things. Great. Consulting wikicamps, I found a place I reckon would be suitable for the night, and made haste to get there before dark. There I had to perform ice box maintenance and try to clean up the juicy concoction that now lined the walls of my box. it was only 316 Km's for the day, but it sure was taxing. I was pretty well stuffed.

Whilst every day had been hot - mid 30's, and the nights had been pretty good, last nights camp certainly wasn't. A cold wind was blowing and I just couldn't escape it. In the end, I said screw it, so at 2000, I just went to bed. Something quite bizarre happened though. I spotted a satellite, heading roughly North East. Nothing bizarre in that, but wait, there's more. It eventually flared out and I immediately spied another roughly at 90 degrees to the first, travelling South West. And when that one flared out, another following the trajectory of the first. As if that wasn't weird enough, a 4th, same as the first also appeared. 4 in a row. I doubt I'll ever see an event like that ever again....

I woke early on the last day and decided I wouldn't bother with breakfast or a coffee, but head into Bruce Rock for a bought breakfast. I also noted my geo tally was now 288. Could get 12 more before home to crack the 300? I wsas now back in civilisation, deep into the middle of the wheatbelt.

So I put a plan in place. I picked up 5 in Bruce rock and one DNF.So it's only 0900 with 7 to go.

Stopping in the old township of Kwolyin, I thought I could grab a couple more. But reading the logs, some walking was involved and I just didn't have the time to pick them off. I needed quicker ones. So a detour to Mt Stirling and I had another one bagged. Mind you, that one wasn't quick either, it had taken me 45 Minutes for the one find (GC11XA0)

Now with 5 to go, I picked off 2 at the pink lake (which wasn't pink) , one being an earth cache and then another 2 in town. I was now at 299.

Merredin was looking good to bag 300. I drove up an appropriate named street, to the top of Cunderdin Hill. A bit of looking around and I had hit my target. 300 Finds. You lil ripper. It wasn't planned before I left, but I made it happen once I realised I was so close.

Time now being 1415, meant I was going to have to fight peak hour traffic across town when I got there. I arrived home at 1730, exhausted but exhilarated at the same time. The largest day of my 5 days on the road with 440Km's driven.

I love trips like plans, just go and see what happens. This is living!

Then, I noted that I finish 2018 with a rather tantalising milestone to achieve in 2019.

I will chalk up 100,000 Km's of trips away since 2011. I've been every where man.....


And fuel usage for 2018 was substantial too:

I have a pathtag in production to mark the milestone. They will be starting to be placed in caches once I hit the target.

Bring on a mighty big 2019.

Trip Stats:

 4 nights under canvas

 1502km travelled

 168L fuel used

trip average of  11.2L/100

cost of fuel $263

camp fees $0 - No camp fee's out here 👍.

Finishing the year off with 42 nights under canvas

Trip Vids: